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To a charismatic rescue: Designing a blueprint to steer fishing cat conservation for safeguarding Indian wetlands

Citation

Rana, Divyashree; Samad, Imran; Rastogi, Sankarshan (2022), To a charismatic rescue: Designing a blueprint to steer fishing cat conservation for safeguarding Indian wetlands, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.qz612jmj7

Abstract

Wetland conservation in the Indo-tropics can benefit from the protection of the charismatic Fishing Cat. India, supporting ∼ 40% of its known range, is a stronghold for the species. Here, using multiple information sources we outline a framework to safeguard fishing cats in India. Specifically, we a) estimated district-level Conservation priority scores (using presence records, and habitat suitability and habitat connectivity) to identify ecologically important habitats, b) estimated state-level Conservation likelihood scores assessing the success potential of any conservation intervention, c) collated district-level Conservation initiative information identifying ongoing efforts for species and/or habitat conservation. We consecutively assessed the spatial congruence between (a), (b) and (c) to delineate species’ conservation areas and corresponding action goals (blueprint). Using information on habitat suitability, we also delineated survey landscapes. Although Fishing Cat records were found in 12 Indian states, only a small proportion of the state area was identified harbouring optimal habitat for the species. Three broad habitat clusters - Terai arc, Eastern coast, and Brahmaputra floodplains - were identified, with overall high habitat connectivity. Most districts ranking high in Conservation priority scored low in Conservation likelihood. Districts with Fishing Cat presence (n = 60) were delineated into four tiers of action landscapes and the majority of districts classified as survey landscapes (n = 156) were found in the Terai arc. We use our results to recommend and discuss conservation actions for districts identified in our blueprint. Flagship species conservation approach has substantial potential to enrich wetland conservation, for which our blueprint can act as a baseline.